Michigan Football Season Preview

The University of Michigan football season kicks off in under a week. With the opener against Alabama on Saturday, September 1st, here’s a preview of 2012 Michigan football.

Offense:  Michigan’s offense should be just as good or better than the 2011 team. The team averaged 33.3 points per game last year and are bringing back most of the key contributors.

Quarter Back:  Denard Robinson is already one of the most electric players in all of college football. He is returning as a senior and a captain with another year of experience under his belt. Everyone already knows his biggest threat is his legs and running ability, but this is his second year in Al Borges’s system so he should be more comfortable in the offense. According to team reports, his passing has improved. His accuracy is better and he is doing a better job at reading the defense. His mechanics have improved and he’s trying to become a complete quarterback. Robinson completed approximately 55% of his passes with 15 interceptions last season. Expect those passing numbers to improve and his interceptions to drop. The only concern with Robinson is his durability. Backups Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy do not have a lot of experience.

Running Back:  The starter at running back is up in the air since Fitz Toussaint is currently suspended and his status for the Alabama game is still unknown. Despite Toussaint’s suspension, Michigan should still have a solid running attack. Michigan averaged approximately 222 rushing yards per game last year. Denard is always a threat to run and can break off a long gain at any moment. Once Toussaint won the starting position, he proved to be a reliable back. Even without Toussaint, Thomas Rawls should be able to step in without missing a beat. Rawls was in line to win the starting position last year until an injury sidelined him. According to reports, he is supposed to be a punishing back that will run people over. He has been referred to as a faster Mark Ingram. That sounds like a quite a stretch, but that’s a good comparison to have. With Vincent Smith as the third down back and the best pass blocking back on the team, the running back position should be strong.

Wide Receiver:  This could be a question mark on the offense. Big play receiver Junior Hemmingway has graduated leaving Roy Roundtree as the main target. Roundtree is just coming off minor knee surgery, but should be back for week 1. That leaves Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo as the only other receivers with a decent amount of game experience. Gallon and Dileo are both smaller, possession receivers. Michigan has been experimenting with backup QB Devin Gardner to help out at receiver. Coaches have said he is too athletic to keep off the field and should help the passing game. Other options at receiver are Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson. Also in the mix for playing time are freshman receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, both which have the height and size that is needed.

Offensive Line:  The offensive line took a hit when center David Molk graduated, but they do bring back some experience. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is one of the best tackles in football. Ricky Barnum (center), Patrick Omameh (RG), and Michael Shofield (RT) all have game experience. The one position battle is at left guard between Elliot Mealer, walk-on Joey Burzynski, and freshman Kyle Kalis, with Mealer as the favorite.

Defense:  Under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the defense was vastly improved over the Rich Rod era defense. Michigan returns its starters at linebacker and in the secondary, leaving the defensive line as the biggest question mark.

Defensive Line:  Michigan lost 3 key members of its line with Martin, Van Bergen, and Heininger. Will Campbell will replace Martin at defensive tackle. The question is rather or not he will be able to live up to his 5 star potential. Craig Roh will take over for Van Bergen at defensive end and should have a very productive year. Michigan has shuffled around the other positions on the line with the possible starters as Jibreel Black (DE), and Quinton Washington (NT). The d-line has gotten smaller, but should be quicker and more athletic.

Linebackers and Secondary:  The linebackers and secondary are the strong points of the defense and should be able to help out the inexperienced defensive line. Linebackers return Jake Ryan, Kenny Demens, and Desmond Morgan. At the corners, Blake Countess and JT Floyd will return as the starters with Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon at the safety positions. Ryan, Demens, Countess, and Kovacs are set to have big years and all 4 have the ability to make game changing plays.

Special Teams:  There are 2 main questions on special teams going into the season. First question is who will start as punter. Competition seems to be pretty even between Will Hagerup and Matt Wile. Second question is who the kick/punt returner will be. Right now it looks like the competition is between freshman Dennis Norfleet, Jeremy Gallon, and Vincent Smith. Brendan Gibbons will remain as the place kicker, but Wile will still handle kickoffs and long distance field goals.

Other Notes:  True freshman got playing time under Brady Hoke last year and some even became eventual starters. Expect the same to be true this year with several possible freshman seeing the field. Kyle Kalis (G), Ondre Pipkins (DT), Joe Bolden (LB), Dennis Norfleet (PR/KR), and Mario Ojemudia (DE) are all freshman that could help this team.

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